Here's something that all of us could use-acoustic treatment that's portable, adjustable, affordable, and extremely easy to set up and use. The Reflexion is an arc-shaped acoustic filter that surrounds the back side of a mic. An integrated mount allows you to attach it to a mic stand (or any thin pole, for that matter) and position it at any angle, with a mic inside the arc. It absorbs and diffuses sound energy that would normally hit the rear of the mic, allowing the mic to record more of the source and less of the ambient space. Check out the manufacturer's website for details on how it works, because it's way more than just a layer or two of foam or glass fiber-six layers of carefully chosen material make up the high-tech absorber/diffuser.
After unpacking the sucker out of the box, I did what I imagine most people would do upon first encountering the Reflexion. I put my face into the arc and spoke into it. Whoa, huge difference. Room ambience disappeared. As if I had earplugs on, I was hearing my voice "inside my head" instead of in the room. Next, I pulled out my audio analyzer and ran some tests. Measuring frequency response with an omni mic inside the arc (and a speaker behind the Reflexion outputting pink noise), there was a clearly discernable knee starting at 1 kHz, dropping smoothly by 15 dB at 10 kHz and 60 dB at 20 kHz relative to the response measured without the Reflexion. I also ran some RT60 tests with the mic and Reflexion in various locations around the room to measure room reverb density. Here also, I measured significant differences. Then I pulled out mics with cardioid, hypercardioid, and figure-8 patterns (pointing the mics away from the arc, of course) and repeated the tests-I still measured big changes, even with cardioid mics, which by design, have a good amount of built-in rear rejection.
What about in real use? Well, the coolest feature is that you can vary the amount of ambience that you're letting into the rear and sides of the mic. The built-in mic mount is on a rail that lets you vary the distance between mic and arc, allowing you to adjust how much the arc "wraps" around the mic. Want a completely dead sound while doing a vocal take or voiceover? Position the singer with her back to an absorptive wall, and slide the mic into the arc of the Reflexion as far back as possible. Too dead? Pull the mic out a bit. Even fractions of an inch can make a big difference in the ambience you pick up. How about recording an instrument or vocalist while the whole band performs in the same room? I've found that the Reflexion does a commendable job at reducing bleed-well worth its use. But for me, the winning factor is that it significantly reduces the levels of transients-think drum and cymbal attack here. Great for recording guitars, horns, or even vocals while the drummer whacks away. Or even cooler, try using an omni mic to pick up the sound of the room (yes, I'm suggesting using the Reflexion to record room ambience-what it's designed to take out) while the Reflexion peels away the drum transients, which allows you to mix in more room sound when it comes time to mix, with less chance of screwing up the clean attack of each close-mic'ed drum hit.
I'm quite amazed that the Reflexion has no real competitors, because it's such a great idea and a true must-have! I don't know of any other product that's as easy to use yet so effective at varying the level of ambience in your recording. Think of how much you've spent on all your mics, and then think of what you'd pay to multiply the usefulness of every mic in your collection. Or think of how much it'd cost to build a room with adjustable ambience. At $300 street, I think the Reflexion is a steal. Moreover, it's small enough to stash in a closet or place on a shelf when not in use. But don't forget to budget for a really solid mic stand, because this thing is heavy! ($399 MSRP; www.seelectronics.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.